Lonely Planet review
You’d think that Tate Britain might have suffered since its lavish, sexy sibling, Tate Modern, took half its collection and all of the limelight across the river at its millennium opening. On the contrary, the venerable Tate Britain, built in 1897 by Henry Tate (the man who invented the sugar cube), stretched its definitive collection of British art from the 16th to the late 20th centuries out splendidly, while Tate Modern devoted its space to modern art.
The star of the show at Tate Britain is JMW Turner. After he died in 1851, his estate was settled by a decree declaring that whatever had been found in his studio – 300 oil paintings and about 30,000 sketches and drawings – would be bequeathed to the nation. You’ll find such classics as The Scarlet Sunset and Norham Castle, Sunrise .
As well as Turner’s art, there are seminal works by such artists as Constable, Gainsborough and Reynolds as well as pre-Rahaelites (Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Millais), but also more modern artists, such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Tracey Emin. Tate Britain also hosts the prestigious and often controversial Turner Prize for contemporary art from October to early December every year.
There are free 45-minute thematic tours (11am, noon, 2pm & 3pm), along with free 15-minute Art in Focus (1.15pm Tue, Thu & Sat) talks on specific works. Audioguides (£3.50) are also available.